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February 2023Vol. 24, No. 1 Addressing the Developmental and Mental Health Needs of Infants and Toddlers Involved in Child Welfare

The National Center for Children in Poverty published a brief in 2022 that examines strategies used in three states to address the developmental and mental health needs of infants and toddlers involved in child welfare. This population is at risk for poor social-emotional, behavioral, and learning outcomes for a variety of reasons, including trauma, maltreatment, and separation from primary caregivers. The brief explores the roles of state and local child welfare and Part C early intervention (EI) agencies in promoting the well-being of these children.


The brief lists four reasons for focusing on child welfare and EI:


  • Child welfare is a critical point of contact for many infants and toddlers who have experienced or are at risk of maltreatment.
  • EI is the program most explicitly mandated to address early developmental difficulties in children.
  • States must have procedures that support the referral of children involved in founded cases of abuse or neglect to EI, as mandated by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Children of color are disproportionately involved in child welfare and deserve equitable access to child development supports.


The brief includes strategies for children in founded cases and those in unfounded cases, who also experience high rates of developmental and mental health issues.


More information, including information about EI, state strategies, and recommendations, are available in the brief, Child Welfare and Early Intervention: Policies and Practices to Promote Collaboration and Help Infants and Toddlers Thrive.